If you have read my article about the Fun Factor in Homeschooling, you know that a lot of our homeschooling was hard work. Perseverance. Stick-tu-i-tive-ness. The daily grind. The day-to-day in’s and out’s. Teaching our kids contentment, work ethic, and study skills.
But we also had fun. A lot of fun. Not every subject. Not every hour. But in balance, we had fun in our school.
Many years ago we were able to go to many homeschooling seminars including the Christian Homeschooling Workshop by Greg Harris. I mentioned before on this blog that we came home from his seminars (basic and advanced) ready to tackle one thing at a time out of that amazing binder of material.
Does your public library have a “customs collection” service? The Fort Wayne, IN public library system does, and it is amazing. If you aren’t aware of this, I suggest calling your library and asking about it–especially if you teach using unit studies of any kind.
Today I would like to leave you some tips for Independent Work Lists–especially for older students (junior high through high school). These will be in no true order–just some things that I want to re-emphasize from the younger ages as well as things that pertain only to olders.
So here we go:
1. Consider the document or chart that works best for your age child now. Most kids in junior high and high school no longer want cutsie charts. Once you decide you want a genuine paper document, then you have to decide how you want it filled in:
a. As he goes, he lists what he does each day, sort of a daily school journal.
b. You write in a planner each week for him for the following week (page number, number of pages, lesso number, etc.).
c. You have a standard daily Independent Work List that you create in your scheduling program or Excel—that you can customize when something changes, etc. You print this off, put it on a clip board, and have him highlight or mark off as he does things each day.
2. Consider if you are going to make his Independent Work List for him completely or if you will have his input. We liked to choose our high schoolers materials, schedules, lists, etc., with them, so that they have some input in the process–and to help model for them/teach them how to organize, prioritize, etc.
3. Still use some of the elements from the earlier suggestions (for younger kids) that are universal, such as:
a. School is your child’s occupation. It is what he should be about during the day.
b. Put the daily tasks in sections according to time of day or importance–and also in order according to when they should be done.
c. Do your part to be sure that charts are updated, printed, and ready. I know from personal experience that if we are laxed in this–they become laxed real quick!
d. Have a system that works for you every day. Have his list on a clip board that he carries with him/keeps in his school area. Have him highlight as he does things. Have him leave it on your desk when he is done, etc.
e. Develop a “no exceptions” approach to daily independent work. A student doesn’t go to basketball, girls group, youth group, etc., until his daily independent work list is done.
4. Have blanks on the chart to add in any work from outside classes, music lessons, Bible quizzing, etc.
5. Put things that are not dailies where ever they go. This was always a little bit difficult for me. Do twice weeklies go on Tuesday and Thursday (but Thursday is our lesson and errand day…). Do three times weeklies always go M-W-F, even though Wednesday is our “cottage class day” and extras do not get done on that day. This might take a while to get in the groove, but it is worth it to tweak things and make it work.
6. For junior high kids, consider that you might need smaller chunks (maybe two math sessions at 30 minutes a day, etc.). Again, you know your student and your family situation, so do whatever works best for you.
7. Consider if you want this Independent Work List to be his total chart/list for all aspects of his day at older ages:
a. Do you want to put his devotions, music practice, and outside work on there too?
b. Do you want it to contain meetings/tutoring sessions with you?
c. Do you want it to also be his chore list?
There are some definite advantages to a junior high or high schooler having his day right in front of him in one spread sheet. However, this can also get overwhelming to some kids.
Feel free to ask questions here on FB about the Independent Work Lists–I will try to answer them. I can’t imagine not having homeschooled without our three daily task lists: (1) Morning routines; (2) Chore charts; (3) Independent Work Lists!
Once school starts and the textbooks have been previewed, you can help your students get into good homework habits by doing their homework with them for a few weeks.
Here are some tips along those lines:
1. Taking the textbook preview further
There are a number of ways that you can take the previewing of textbooks that I discussed yesterday even further with your children for more comprehension of the material:
a. Do his first few assignments out of the book with him, pointing out the things again that you observed in your first preview. This will help him see that those things are not just good things to know, but also helpful for completely homework quicker and more accurately.
b. Help him prepare for his first test with his textbook and you by his side. Show him how he can use the glossary, sidebars, table of contents, etc. to quickly fill in his study guide or quickly determine what the most important aspects of the chapter are in order to prepare for a test.
c. As you are previewing a text (for the first time or an additional time), use a large sticky note to record what you find. Write the title of the text at the top, then make notes about what it contains as far as study and homework helps. Stick this in the front of his textbook and help him refer to it when he is doing homework or test preparation. You could even record a plus and minus system, such as
+++ means something is going to be really helpful—a +++ beside the Table of Contents, for instance
+ beside a word he writes in the front of his book tells him that this might be somewhat helpful—Example: +Some graphs
– No study questions at end of chapter—again, he can make a list in the front of his book (on a large sticky note), etc.
d. Help him “label” different sections of his book with sticky notes along the edges. For example, you could put a yellow one at the beginning of each chapter and a pink one on the page that has definitions for that chapter, etc.
2. Prepare your younger student for textbooks by using user-friendly non-fiction books
Maybe you are not in the textbook stage with your kids; however, you can begin preparing them for those all important study skills that I described yesterday with quality non-fiction books. If kids at ages five, six, eight, and ten, learn to navigate around Dorling Kindersley, Eyewitness, and Usborne books (among many others), they will be heads and shoulders above other children who have only been exposed to fictional stories (more on the benefits of fiction later!).
These outstanding non-fiction books have literally hundreds of topics that interest kids, but they are so colorful and alluring, you do not feel like you are “teaching” at all. Additionally, they have many aspects that your child’s future textbooks will also have: glossaries, Tables of Contents, sidebars, graphs, pictures, inserts, definitions, bold font, italics, etc. Reading these to and with your children when they are younger will provide a natural step into textbooks later on.
Note: We teach our students (in our home, our cottage classes, and in our language arts books) a simple memory device for remembering fiction and non-fiction:
Fiction=fake (both begin with f)
Non-fiction=not fake (both begin with nf)